So thank you for coming out on this really cold, snowy day. This comes down to a choice. It's what's the direction that you want the country to go to? And let's kind of look at what you've got. You've got the opportunity to look back at the past and continue or go forward and start new.
We right now, if you look at our economy and you look at the state of our country. It's bad. And you don't have to turn on the news to see how bad it is, you feel it. You feel it at the grocery store, you feel it at the gas station, you feel it with your mortgage payment, your insurance payment, everything that we have to pay, it's all gone up. We're $34 trillion in debt, we're having to borrow money just to make our interest payments. China owns some of that debt. And I would love to tell you that Biden did that to us, but I will always speak in hard truths to you. Our Republicans did that to us, too. And so now we're if in this mess, how do we fix it? How do we get the economy back on track? How do we get inflation down? I think the first thing is you put an accountant in the White House, it's about time to do that. What we'll do is we'll start by calling back the 100 billion dollars of unspent COVID dollars that are still out there. Instead of 87,000 IRS agents going after Middle America, let's go up to the hundreds of billions of dollars of COVID fraud. One out of every $7 was spent frauduently. If 8% of our budget is interest, quit borrowing, cut up the credit cards. You have to balance a budget every day. I had to balance the budget as governor. Why is Congress the only group that refuses to balance a budget? We'll stop the spending, we'll stop the borrowing, we'll stop the pet projects and earmarks and I'll veto any spending bill that doesn't take us back to pre COVID levels, that will save us trillions.
Then we're gonna take as many federal programs as we can and send them down to the state level. That will dramatically reduce the size of the federal government, but it will empower people on the ground. Just imagine if those resources came down to you with no strings attached on education, health care, welfare, mental health. Those are the things that could come and be tailored to your state. That's what we'll do.
The next thing we know we need to do is we need to open up the middle class. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. So the way we're going to do that is start with eliminating the federal gas and diesel tax in this country. We're going to cut taxes on the middle class and simplify those brackets. And we're going to make small business tax cuts permanent. They made the corporate tax cuts permanent, but they made small business tax cuts temporary. Small businesses are the heartbeat of our economy. We have to start acting like it. When we start to focus on the debt and inflation, that's when we'll start to breathe again.
And then when it comes to education, right now only 31% of eighth graders in our country are proficient reading. Think about that. Only 27% of eighth graders are proficient in math. If we don't do something quick, we're gonna be in a world of hurt 10 years from now. And what we knew in South Carolina is if a child couldn't read by third grade, they were four times less likely to graduate high school. So we need to do across the country what we started doing in South Carolina, instead of pushing them forward, hold them back. We brought in their parents, we did reading remediation, we set them up for success. We've gotta get our kids reading again. And then we need to have complete transparency in the classroom. No parent should ever wonder what's being said or taught to their child in the classroom. That's why we'll have all of the curriculums online for every parent to see. We want every parent to decide the mode of education and where their child gets educated. Parents know best. Let's stop having government dictate which ZIP Code A child has to go to to get their education. And then let's build things in America again. Let's put vocational classes back in our high schools. In South Carolina, we had apprenticeships all over our state. We taught our kids how to do the things we were doing in our state before they finish school. That way they were invested in our economy. And then we love our boys. But for all you girl dads out there and all you strong moms. We have to raise strong girls because strong girls become strong women and strong women become strong leaders. And none of that happens if we have biological boys playing in girls sports. We've got to cut that out.
When it comes to the border, this is truly a dereliction of duty. I mean, this is a national security threat like no other. When I was governor in South Carolina, we passed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country. President Obama sued us over it and we won. We will take what we did in South Carolina and go national with it. We did a e-verify program that required businesses to have to prove that the people they hire are in this country legally. We will defund sanctuary cities once and for all, no more safe havens for illegal immigrants. We'll put 25,000 Border Patrol and ICE agents on the ground and let them do their job. And then we'll go back to the remain in Mexico policy so that no one even steps foot on US soil and instead of catch and release, we'll do catch and deport. We've got to send them back. We've got to stop the incentive that's allowing, that's causing them to come in the first place.
When we take care of those things, then we have to look at those who take care of us. We have got to take better care of our veterans. Right now. Over 35,000 of our veterans are homeless in America. One in three suffers from PTSD or thoughts of suicide. We lose 22 veterans a day to suicide. If a veteran wants to go to the doctor's office, go to the VA, on average it takes them 29 days. Why 29 days? Because on the 30th day they can go to the doctor or hospital of their choice. So midway through the 29 days, they get a call to reschedule and the clock starts all over again. My husband is a combat veteran. He served in Afghanistan. When he came home to us there were prayers answered. But that was the easy part. When he got home life got hard. He couldn't hear loud noises, he couldn't be in crowds. Life had passed him by for the year that he was gone and the transition was tough. We can't just love our men and women when they're gone. We gotta love them when they come back home too.
That's why we need to do telehealth so they get the mental health care they need right when they need it. They should be able to go to the doctor or hospital of their choice. They've earned that right. And I think the best way we deal with the VA is I think every member of Congress had to get their health care from the VA and you watch how fast that gets fixed. It'll be the best healthcare you've ever seen, guarantee.
And then there were three things, two things that Russia China and Iran never wanted us to have when I was at the UN. They never wanted us to have a strong military and they never wanted us to be energy independent. We won't just be energy independent, we'll be energy dominant. Let's get the EPA out of the way right now they care more about sagebrush lizards than they do about whether we can afford our utility bill. We'll speed up our permitting process, we'll while the Keystone Pipeline to happen, we'll export as much liquefied natural gas as we can, we'll do nuclear power. We will build up the biofuel industry so that it's the opportunity we know it can be and that includes supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard energy in America shouldn't just be to survive. We should turn it into an economic powerhouse, we should be exporting it out. When we do that not only are we strong, but you're helping build the economy in the you know in the primary side of things so that it helps us with inflation.
So those are the things we can do domestically. But there are a couple of things we need to do in DC. Don't you think it's time we falling in term limits in America?Don't you think we need to have mental competency tests for anyone over the age of 75? Let me say this, I'm not being disrespectful when I say that. We all know 75 year olds that can run circles around us. Senator Grassley is a perfect example of that. And then we know Joe Biden. I don't care if we do it for 50 and up. These are people making decisions on our national security. These are people making decisions on the future of our economy. We need to know they're at the top of their game.
And then when it comes to national security. Literally the world is on fire. And you've got Congress right now saying do we support Ukraine or do we support Israel? Do we support Israel or do we secure the border? Don't let them lie to you like that. That's a false premise and they know it. I will be the first person to say we should never send cash to any country, friend or foe, because you can't follow it and you can't hold it accountable. But if you're one of those people that says why should we care about Ukraine? That's a legitimate question for you to ask. The problem is no one's giving you the answer. I will always give you the answer of why something should be done. The reason we should support Ukraine, I saw everyday at the UN, terrorists, thugs, and dictators always tell us what they're gonna do. They're amazingly transparent. HAMAS said they were gonna go into Israel. They did. China said they would take Hong Kong, happened during COVID. Russia said they would invade Ukraine. We watched it. China says Taiwan is next, we better believe them. Russia said once they take Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics are next. Those are NATO countries, that puts America at war.
This is trying to prevent war. It's always been about preventing war. So we should give them the equipment and ammunition they need to win because Putin's hit rock bottom. We know that he's lost 87% of his fighting force that started the war. //////They've raised the draft age in Russia to 65. They're getting drones from Iran and missiles from North Korea. He knows he's hit rock bottom. If we just supported Ukraine, that's only three and a half percent of our defense budget. Europeans are putting more money than we are and they should it's their neighborhood.
Then you look at Israel for anybody that says why should we care about Israel? God help us if we don't get this, right. Israel is a bright spot in a tough neighborhood. They are the tip of the spear when it comes to defeating terrorism. It is never been that Israel needs America. It has always been that America needs Israel. And on that horrific day of October 7, when they beheaded those people and burned those babies alive and took those girls from the concerts, raped them and dragged their naked bodies to the streets of Gaza. What did they say? Death to Israel, Death to America. That's why we should care. If we supported Ukraine and Israel, that's only 5% of our defense budget.
Now the other option they're giving you of securing our border, priority number one, it is inexcusable. America's acting like it's September 10 and we better remember what September 12 felt like because it only takes one person for a 9/11 moment. So we need to do that right away. If we support Ukraine, Israel and secured the Southern and the Northern border that's less than 20% off Biden's green subsidies. So don't let them tell you you have to choose. Congress has to choose national security. Congress has to choose preventing war. Congress has to choose protecting Americans because there's a reason the Taiwanese want the US and the West to support Ukraine. Because they know if Ukraine wins China won't invade Taiwan. There's a reason the Ukrainians want the US and the West to support Israel. Because they know if Russia- if Iran wins Russia wins. China, Russia and Iran are bound together in an unholy alliance because they hate freedom. They hate democracy and above all things, they hate America. And China is our number one national security threat. So we know what the issues are. We just have to stop putting our heads in the sand and start getting in front of it. Because we've got to get back to where its about faith and freedom and country. When we do that, America will suddenly be back on track.
Six months ago I dropped my husband Michael off at 4am for another year long deployment. And I watched him and 230 soldiers picked up their two duffel bags of belongings to go to a country they've never been all in the name of protecting America. They're willing to sacrifice their lives and their families because they still believe in this amazing experiment that is America. So if they're willing to sacrifice for us there should we be willing to fight for America here. We have a country to save. But the only way we're going to save her is if we acknowledge some hard truths. Republicans have lost the last seven out of eight popular votes for president, that's nothing to be proud of. We should want to win the majority of Americans. But the only way we're going to win the majority of Americans is if we go forward with a new generational conservative leader and leave the negativity in the baggage behind and go forward with the new solutions of the future.
Another hard truth. I think President Trump was the right president at the right time. I agree with a lot of his policies. But rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him, you know I'm right. Chaos follows him and we can't be a country in disarray and have a world on fire and go through four more years of chaos. We won't survive it.
We cannot afford a president Kamala Harris at all. And that's why November matters. And if you look at these general election, head to head polls against Biden, Ron doesn't beat Biden. Trump is head to head with Biden on a good day he might be up by 2, thats margin of error. It's going to be another nail biter of an election. Every one of those polls, I defeat Biden by double digits, by 17 points.
Do you know what that means for a country? That's bigger than the presidency. That's governorship, that's house, that's Senate, all the way down to the school board. With double digits going into DC that's a mandate to stop wasteful spending and get our economy back on track. That's a mandate to get our kids reading again and go back to the basics in education. That's a mandate to secure our border with no more excuses. That's a mandate to bring law and order back to our country and that's a mandate for a strong America that wee can all be proud of.
We can do this. The fellas are scared. I'm telling you. You can see our numbers going up in the polls. Americans just want to see if it's possible. And you can set the tone. This starts with Iowa. Y'all know how to do this. You take this responsibly. I know I've done over 150 town halls, y'all ask every question, I've shaken every hand, I'm the last one to leave. But it's worth it. Every bit of it's worth it because our country's worth it.
Now Monday is gonna be cold. Really cold. But what I'm asking you is, if you will take the time to not just go to the pools, take people with you, wear layers, because you might be standing in a line, take your ID. But think of the fact which might be making history in this moment. And I'm not talking about history of a female president. I'm talking about history saying we are going to finally write the ship in America. We're finally gonna get it right. You know, someone asked me when I was running, why I was running. And I said my parents came here 50 years ago to an America that was strong and proud and full of opportunities. I want them to know that country again. I'm doing this for my husband Michael and his military brothers and sisters. They need to know their sacrifice matters. They need to know that we love our country. I'm doing this for my daughter who's here with me today who just got married and I saw how hard it was for her and her husband to buy a home. The average homebuyer in America now is 49 years old. The American dream is getting away from us. And I'm here with my son too. And I'm doing it for him. Because I have sat there watched him in college, having to struggle over writing papers of things he doesn't believe it just to get an A, that it's not us. That's not America. And for the first time 81% of Americans don't think their kids are going to live as good of a life as we did. We can't be okay with that. I'm not okay with that. We do have a country to save. But I'll promise you this, if you will join with me in this movement if you will join with me in this fight.. I promise you that our best days are yet to come. Thank you very much. God bless you.